|Floating in Lake Assal, the lowest point in Africa and the world's largest salt reserve|
This weekend I hit the 6 month mark of my time living in
Djibouti. Six straight months
without leaving the country, and a wonderful six months it has been. I’m
serious—not one ounce of sarcasm.
I really am enjoying living in Djibouti and look forward to the next 18
This may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you. Djibouti has a bad reputation. When telling people I was moving here,
the responses I received were usually “My condolences” or “Where?!” I myself
didn’t know diddly-squat about the country until it appeared on our bid list.
Researching it online didn’t provide many clues as to what to expect, and books
on the subject are hard to find.
Not even Lonely Planet can tell you much—just a few pages inserted into
their book on Ethiopia. After over
a year of studying the topic, what I had learned could be summed up in the
Djibouti is freakishly hot much of the year
Djibouti’s main sources of income are the rent paid by the
Americans and French for their military camps/bases here. The port is also a
major player in the economy.
There are thousands of non-Djiboutian military troops
stationed in the main city
The vast majority of Djibouti men are daily users of a drug
called Khat (read High in Hell
for more about this)
Men who have made their wealth from piracy own fancy homes
Most Djiboutians are extremely poor
Most of Djibouti is unfit for agricultural efforts
There didn’t seem to be much to see/do in Djibouti (which turned out to be completely incorrect)
Djibouti used to be part of Ethiopia, but the French rented it
to use as a shipping port and never gave it back. Now it is an independent state.
BUT there is the snorkeling and the whale shark migration
to look forward to!
After arriving and getting my official orientation, I
learned a few more things--- like that HIV and tuberculosis levels are very
high, and that one of the most extreme forms of female genital mutilation
continues to be inflicted on the majority of Djiboutian girls.
So now that I’ve told you all of that, I’d like to say (especially to those considering coming here) that life in Djibouti is
actually quite nice if you are one of the lucky ones to have a living
wage. Djibouti is full of stunning
beauty both above and below the waterline. Djibouti has good restaurants and
beaches, and in the winter the weather is fantastic. There is a decent French elementary and high school and a French-run hospital with competent staff. Unlike most capital cities in the world, Djibouti has
extremely low rates of random violent crime.
Muggings and car-jackings aren’t an issue here. Neither is air pollution
or getting stuck for ages in snarled traffic.
Thus, I plan to dedicate a number of my upcoming posts to
the joys of Djibouti.